As a construction professional, can you envision the day coming where you no longer use paper in your daily activities? We’re talking no more hard copies of plans and specs, invoices, contracts, timesheets, punch lists, contracts or bids. In such a paper-reliant industry like construction this may seem completely improbable to some.
While the notion of a paperless construction company might seem crazy, the industry continues to head in that direction. Not only does the technology already exist to go completely paperless, current solutions are better at making your company more efficient and productive while allowing for easier communication and collaboration.
We’ll get to some of ways technology is rapidly making paper obsolete in a just a bit. If you’re still skeptical that the use of paper could never be replaced at your construction company, answer the following two questions:
- When was the last time you flipped through a copy of the yellow pages to look up a phone number?
- When was the last time you bought film for your camera?
Have you done either of these in the past week? What about the past month? The past year? Can you even remember the last time you’ve done both of these things?
I can’t remember the last time I used a phonebook. We had some delivered to our office building a couple of weeks ago. Multiple copies were left stacked outside the doors to the various companies located in our building. After a couple of days there didn’t appear to have been many takers. One morning I came in to find they all had disappeared. My guess is the custodial staff had been instructed to gather them all up and toss them in the dumpster.
I do, however, remember the last time I purchased camera film. It was in 2006 when I finally traded in my manual Nikon FM10 SLR for a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT. I used to enjoy developing my own black and white film and making prints in my bathroom turned makeshift darkroom, so it was hard to give it up.
The problem is I was going on a massive cross-country road trip for several months and going digital was the best option. I could take as many pictures as I wanted, could review each one immediately, could switch from black and white to color as much as I desired and anytime the memory card got full I just uploaded everything to my laptop. With a film camera I would have probably spent hundreds on film and developing and wouldn’t know whether I had gotten any good shots until after my trip. I also would have constantly worried about the film being damaged by prolonged heat exposure from being stored in a vehicle for months.
My switch from film to digital was a better solution to meet my needs. The same can be true for your construction company should you choose to go from chasing paper to being paperless.
Here’s a look at some of the options available to your current paper solutions:
If you’ve been in business for any length of time you probably have filing cabinets or file boxes full of project documents, invoices, timesheets, tax documents, etc. Maybe you even have offsite storage for all your paperwork. With paper storage your documents are susceptible to fire and flood damage as well as theft of confidential information. A secure cloud computing storage solution is probably your best bet. Other options include onsite server storage or backing everything up on external hard drives. With a good document software solution you can easily access any document or associated documents with a few keystrokes on the computer rather than having to locate and sort through bulky files.
Plans & Specs
2D paper plans are good, but they pale in comparison to when you look at all the additional information that can be provided with BIM models. Augmented reality, tablets, digital plan tables, SMART Boards and wearables like smart hard hats and Microsoft’s HoloLens will make paper plans and specs obsolete. I also read recently about a company called Zebra Imaging which can make holographic prints of from 3D models for better visualization. Why bother with 2D plans when you can immerse yourself in 3D images where you can view exploded details of building components with additional information like cost, time and scheduling.
With digital plans you can always have instant access to the most up to date drawings, something paper plans will never be able to accomplish. Digital plans and BIM models also allow for better project collaboration because all parties can view and either make or suggest changes as the drawing progress, which makes for a better end product.
Keeping up with your employees paper timesheets can be a real hassle. Not only do you have to make sure they’ve all been filled out and completed properly, you also have to get them safely back to the office so your HR or accounting folks can get them entered and processed to pay your employees. Mobile solutions like ClockShark allows you to schedule, monitor and make corrections to time cards without all the messy paperwork. Some mobile time clock solutions also allow you integrate with your payroll software.
Project Management & Documentation
There are all sorts of software solutions and mobile apps that have been developed for the construction industry manage and document both your projects and your entire construction business. Paper processes such as daily logs, punch lists, requests for information, estimating and takeoffs can all be replaced with currently available software and mobile apps which you can easily access from a smartphone or tablet.
What are your thoughts on going paperless? Are you currently using a digital solution to eliminate some of your paper usage to save your company time and money?